CHAMPAIGN, Illinois (Ticker) -- Ohio State can clinch the first 12-win season in school history on Saturday, but there is far more at stake for the Buckeyes.
Second-ranked Ohio State gained control of its postseason destiny last week and will play for the national title in the Fiesta Bowl if it wins its next two games, beginning Saturday at Big Ten Conference rival Illinois.
The latest BCS standings have Ohio State at No. 1, thanks to Oklahoma's surprising loss to unranked Texas A&M and the Buckeyes' thrilling 10-6 win over Purdue.
"I'm proud of what this team has accomplished so far this year," coach Jim Tressel said. "We've won a number of tough games, and this week we have another very difficult challenge at Illinois. That is where our focus is."
After Illinois, the focus shifts to the regular season finale against Michigan on November 23.
Craig Krenzel may have made his lasting mark at Ohio State last week, lofting a 37-yard touchdown pass to Michael Jenkins on 4th-and-1 with 1:36 left. The Buckeyes (11-0, 6-0) have a history of employing a run-oriented, conservative offense, and the victory at Purdue showed they can roll the dice if necessary.
Somewhat lost in the excitement, however, was a sputtering offense. The Buckeyes have scored less than 20 points in three of their last four games.
Freshman tailback Maurice Clarett continues to be plagued by a painful shoulder injury that kept him out of the Minnesota game two weeks ago and most of the second half last week.
The injury has limited Clarett to just 91 yards on 18 carries in the last three games, but he is expected to start against the Illini.
The strength of the Buckeyes have been on defense. Ohio State has allowed just one opponent to score more than 20 points and has given up a mere 16 points in the last 14 quarters.
Led by safety Michael Doss and linebacker Matt Wilhelm, Ohio State has not allowed a second-half touchdown the last five games.
Given up for dead after a 1-5 start, Illinois (4-6, 3-3) is no longer a pushover.
The Illini have won three of their last four games, including a 37-20 win at Wisconsin last week in which they rolled up more than 450 yards of total offense. John Beutjer hooked up with Greg Lewis for a pair of touchdown passes.
The Illini will not repeat at Big Ten Conference champions, but Saturday is a chance to show that they will not do down without a fight.
Illinois won in Columbus, 34-22, last season, but the Buckeyes have won the last four meetings in Champaign.